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THE HAMILTON ELECTRIC WRISTWATCH

THE HAMILTON ELECTRIC WRISTWATCH

A Unique "Space in Time!"

January 3, 1957 - Hamilton announces "the watch of the future" - the first electric powered wristwatch! Was the world ready for this? Dwight Eisenhower was President and Elvis Presley sold one million copies of "Heart Break Hotel." The USSR launches the first man made satellite - Sputnik I and blue jeans have replaced long skirts and bobbie socks. The world was ready - new innovations seemed to be happening everywhere and since watches were powered by wound up "mainsprings" for the past 400 years - the time for an electric powered wrist watch was here.

Richard Arbib was the genius designer and artist who created the futuristic shapes for the Hamilton electric cases. The designs were revolutionary. The asymmetrical, dynamic, geometric and eccentric shapes were marketed with clever, space age sounding names such as Ventura, Pacer, Uranus, Titan, Polaris and Saturn. Not only were the designs and names fresh and new but the movement was an engineering marvel. The innovative Model 500 electric - mechanical movement has two extremely fine contact wires mounted on posts, which connect to the balance wheel. The adjustment of these micro-fine contact wires (tension, height, length and angle) is critical for the movement to function properly. The Model 500 has a "bent wire" style battery clip - many movements are found with damaged contact wires caused by careless handling of this battery clip. The Model 500A was introduced in 1950 and the original awkward battery clip was replaced by a more efficient cross bridge style clamp. The 500 and 500A model gained a reputation as being finicky and unreliable. Unfortunately this was often due to poorly trained watchmakers and jewelers who did not take the time to thoroughly understand these new mechanisms.

The 505 Model was introduced in 1961. A non-adjustable contact on the balance assembly and an innovative gear train contact now replaced the delicate earlier contact wire design.

Hamilton was not the only U. S. manufacturer to make an electric driven wrist watch. Elgin produced an electric watch in 1952 but the timepieces were never mass marketed or successful. Technology was constantly moving forward and the Bulova Accutron tuning fork movement quickly took the lead position in the battery powered watch race. Analog quartz watches and solid state digitals were being produced and proving to be accurate, durable, dependable and cost effective. Production of Hamilton electrics came to an end in 1969, a mere 12 years after their introduction. This genre holds a small but special place in horological history - good examples are rapidly disappearing. Hamilton electrics were quite plentiful in the 1980's yet today the vast majority are held in private collections.

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